Caughlins step away from public fight to solve Karen’s murder

Kathy Caughlin, sitting in front of a picture of her parents, wipes away a tear during a news conference two years ago in Sarnia.PAGINATORS USE THIS ONEHeather Wright/This WeekTEARS FOR KAREN   Kathy Caughlin wipes away a tear during a news conference in Sarnia two years ago when she first called for an independent review or her sister's murder saying the OPP had botched the investigation.

Kathy Caughlin, sitting in front of a picture of her parents, wipes away a tear during a news conference two years ago in Sarnia.

Saying they have had enough heartache to last four lifetimes, the family of murdered Sarnia teenager Karen Caughlin are stepping back from their very public fight with the OPP.

Karen Caughlin was just 14 when she went roller skating with her friends at the Rose Garden and never returned home. Her battered body was found on Plowing Match Road outside of Petrolia in 1974. Police have never charged anyone in her murder.

Ten years ago, the OPP began actively investigating the cold case, while her sisters, Kathy and Mary Lou Schwemler waiting anxiously. But they soon became disillusioned with the investigation, charging the OPP had mishandled the case. In May 2011, the family held a news conference calling for an external review of the file.

Caughlin’s concerns were renewed when two local car collectors said a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner with chips of Plum Crazy paint matching the description of one involved in Karen’s death was never examined, despite several calls to the OPP. That prompted a protest in front of the Lambton OPP station last August, but still no resolution.

Kathy Caughlin has gone to both federal and provincial politicians and bureaucrats and watchdog agencies trying to have another police agency look at the file but to no avail.

Two years after calling for the external review, Caughlin says she and her sister can no longer fight the OPP. She declined a telephone interview, but in an email she says they are being “tortured” by the OPP and won’t be talking about the case to the media anymore.

“They (the OPP) have caused us enough damage, heartache and stress to last us four life times,” says Caughlin. “I ashamed of the OPP and what they stand for and the only people who would be proud of their so-called efforts would be Karen’s killers.

“I have no doubt in my heart Karen’s killers will face what is coming to them but it won’t be through the OPP.”

The lead investigator in the case, Det. Insp. Chris Avery, says Caughlin’s file is still active. He confirms in the last few weeks a second investigator out of the Lambton OPP detachment has been following up leads in the case.

“With any major case resources are fluid. Depending on the investigative leads that we have and the information that needs to be followed up we have investigators that can be assigned to supplement resources that are already assigned,” Avery says. “There are some resources that were available and with information that I needed to follow up I was able to secure those resources within Lambton (detachment).”

Avery says new information about Karen’s murder comes into the detachment every month. “Our investigation has generated information that has caused us to follow up other leads and yes, there has been other information generated by the media coverage.

“The community cares about the file and we care about the file and I think the media keeping it in the forefront and our investigative acts keep people talking and thinking and communicating about the case; that causes people to bring information forward.”

-Heather Wright